By Bill McCarthy
The Mazda6 was a ground-breaking car for for the firm when it first appeared in the early part of the century.
The firm had done big saloons, notably the 626, but nothing that was challenging the big boys in the playground like the Mondeo, Passat and Insignia, all significant in the business market.
That quickly changed in 2002 the Mazda6 shook the segment up and the Japanese firm has not rested on its laurels since, with this third generation car still right up there even challenging the more luxury German brands.
In common with many firms, the estate version, or tourer as they like to call it, now challenges the saloon in terms of looks and desirability.
Despite its length, it has a coupe like silhouette with eye-catching alloy wheels It even challenges in the formerly no-go area of sporty performance, notably with this near 200bhp GT Sport model, powered by a feisty 2.5 litre petrol engine.
In addition it features the firm’s most advanced Skyactiv Technology, designed to heighten what they described as ‘Jinba Ittai’, or, car and driver being in harmony, whatever that means.
This latest engine technology certainly delivers a quicker response to throttle demands while steering and handling are further enhanced.
The big estate has always been a bit of a looker and the latest model is no exception, with new grille with redesigned headlights LED running lights, smart new alloy wheels and new rear light clusters.
The interior too, is smart, chic and functional, with plenty of space for five passengers, good head and legroom and decent, if not class leading, stowage capacity.
Inspired by another Japanese theme, Kodo, which it says is produced by finest master craftsmen and designers working with their hands, shaping every line and curve to achieve a level of elegance. It sounds like waffle, but it’s not far off the mark in reality
On the road, the Skyactiv technology delivers, pace, handling and economy in equal measures.
The 190bhp power unit propels the car to 60 mph in just over eight seconds, via the six-speed automatic gearbox.
Fuel economy is helped by stop/start and cylinder deactivation at certain times. It works by controlling valve movement to shut down two of the engine’s four cylinders under light load conditions like constant speed cruising. This delivers an official figure 41.5mpg, a figure, unusually, which I got surprisingly close to, and emissions of 156g/km.
On the road, the tweaked suspensions offers sharp handling, direct steering and a comfortable ride. It should be fun when switching to sport mode and the gearchange paddles.
I did find, however, manual changes hesitant. But sticking to full auto mode still delivers a satisfying drive.
This range-topper has plenty to offer in a fairly premium package, with a fairly premium prices, including, an eight inch touchscreen, which controls major functions, 360-degree parking camera, head-up display and leather upholstery.
The generous standard spec also includes 17-inch alloy wheels, 19-inch on this model, leather upholstery and 19-inch wheels, multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel, DAB radio with Bluetooth, air-con, cruise control, ESC, six airbags and hill-hold
An optional safety pack includes assisted braking, lane departure assistance, blind spot monitor and attention alert.
Despite the swooping silhouette, interior space is still pretty good with stowage space of 552 litres, expanding to 1,664 with the seats folded. A wide flat loading area opens up, with a low loading sill.
Just the kind of practicality you would expect from an estate, sorry, tourer.
Mazda6 Tourer 2.5 GT Sport Nav+ Auto
Mechanical: 194PS, 2,488cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via a 6-speed automatic gearbox
Max speed: 138mph
0-62mph: 8.1 seconds
Combined mpg: 42.2
Insurance group: 29
CO2 emissions: 153g/k
Warranty: 3yrs/62,000 miles